They’re artists and they vote
And so do their customers: NH Citizens for the Arts launches effort to grab presidential attention
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
A New Hampshire organization is getting ready to let the presidential primary candidates know what really counts: the arts.
ArtsVoteNH, a project of New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts (NHCFA) and the Americans for the Arts Action Fund of Washington, D.C., will officially be launched at NHCFA’s annual meeting Wednesday, May 23, in Concord.
“I think it’s a moment when people are looking for really bold new initiatives,” said Marilyn Hoffman, NHCFA president. “I think people are beginning to understand the arts can be part of the solution to our nation’s problems.” Arts can spur economic development, she said. Offering arts in school can help keep talented students from dropping out. And perhaps an Iraqi museum wouldn’t have been destroyed and a library burnt if Americans had more awareness of world arts and culture, Hoffman said.
ArtsVoteNH will ask campaign staffers to provide information about candidates’ ideas on arts policy or platforms, and will research how candidates support the arts in their home states. Reports about candidate positions will be posted at artsvotenh.org. The group will work to highlight the importance of dance, theater, film, music, history, literature, arts education, public TV and radio and the creative economy, including Web design, in daily life.
Suzanne Delle Harrison, part-time executive director at NHCFA, will recruit and dispatch volunteers to “bird dog” primary candidates.
About 10 years ago NHCFA created an initiative called Bipartisan Campaign for the Arts. Since then, most of their primary activities have been limited to board members’ questioning candidates at events — which can be quite effective, Hoffman said. When Gov. Bill Richardson visited Portsmouth several weeks ago, an NHCFA member asked him about arts issues at a Friday evening appearance, another talked to Richardson at a Saturday book signing, and by the time Hoffman met the governor at a house party that day Richardson had added a note about the arts to his introductory statement.
“The thing I liked about this is that it’s bipartisan,” Harrison said. She pointed out that after Sept. 11 one of the first things that happened was a telethon by Hollywood stars to raise funds for victims. “That’s artists. The arts can help in so many ways across all sorts of different socioeconomic problems.” Harrison is founder and artistic director of Yellow Taxi Productions, southern New Hampshire’s only professional year-round theater company. She worked for President Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, but as head of a 501(c)3 nonprofit she can no longer endorse a candidate.
The ArtsVoteNH project ends with the primary but Harrison hopes the effort will leave NHCFA stronger, with an expanded network of volunteers. This year’s state budget includes an increase to the NH Council on the Arts grants for the first time in about 20 years. That amount, approximately $50,000, still needs to be approved by the Senate, but “it’s very exciting,” Hoffman said.
Individuals and organizations are welcome to join NHCFA. Grappone Auto Group has given an initial donation and more in-kind and cash gifts are being sought.
See nhcfa.org for more information or call Suzanne Delle Harrison at 703-4414.